Friends and associates of Hal O’Leary have created a Go Fund Me account to cover medical expenses and long-term care for O’Leary, the father of adaptive skiing and recreation for people with physical and mental disabilities.
The direct link to the account is https://gofundme.com/f/hal-oleary
Hal O’Leary was a ski instructor at Winter Park Resort in Colorado in 1970 when Children’s Hospital brought a group of children who had each had a limb amputated to the resort to learn to ski. O’Leary was the only instructor who raised his hand to volunteer, and that fateful day lead to a lifetime of teaching children, military veterans, and disabled adults with both physical and mental disabilities the joy of skiing. He has spent his entire career teaching and adapting equipment to allow people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, and he has changed thousands of lives in the process.
O’Leary, who just turned 94 and has been living in Denver, has had two years of ongoing medical and care expenses after a knee replacement became infected multiple times. Three months ago, O’Leary suffered a fall, and doctors discovered the artificial knee joint was again infected. The artificial joint had to be surgically removed and an antibiotic spacer placed in the knee to heal the infection. This week O’Leary underwent yet another surgery in Denver to place a new artificial joint in the knee.
According to friend and business associate Kathy Gingery of Tabernash, the surgery went well but O’Leary still faces lengthy rehabilitation and continuing long-term care expenses. Gingery has been handling O’Leary’s affairs for the past several years due to his health issues. Gingery and O’Leary founded the Shining Stars Foundation in 2001, which provides year-round recreation programs to children facing long-term pediatric cancer treatment and their families.
The program at Winter Park Resort grew to include year-round recreation for those with disabilities, and evolved to a separate 501C3 program now called the National Sports Center for the Disabled. The program continues to serve over 4,000 children and adults each year.
O’Leary has personally touched and changed the lives of thousands of Coloradans and people around the world. He wrote the book, Bold Tracks, Teaching Adaptive Skiing, which became the guide for ski instructors and students alike. He and his staff provided outreach to ski resorts around the country, hosting symposiums for instructors to learn his techniques for using adaptive equipment. He made it possible for those with over 50 different disabilities to ski and enjoy outdoor recreation.
O’Leary also worked to change the perceptions of people around the world toward those who face disabilities. His work began long before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1980, and he has worked hard to change perceptions of the disabled. He has traveled worldwide and was instrumental in setting up adaptive ski programs in over 30 countries such as Canada, Europe, Asia, Japan, Chile and Iceland.
By showing the disabled themselves that they were capable of participating in sports alongside able-bodied athletes, and to excel at them, he changed perceptions of disabled people about their own capabilities, and changed the attitudes and perceptions of many about what people with disabilities could accomplish both on-the-hill and off.
O’Leary has been honored for his efforts, including induction into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame and recognition and awards from the Amputee Coalition of America, the Colorado Tourism Board, the El Pomar Award for Excellence, and many more.
“Hal has given so much to Colorado and to the world disabled community that we feel the least we can do is help him out financially as he faces his own health challenges,” said Kathy Gingery. “We’d like to spread the word that he needs our help.”
More information on Hal O’Leary is on the following websites:
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame (includes a list of lifetime awards):
Colorado Ski Hall of Fame: